Digging at the confluence of culture and everything else
Monthly Archives: March 2014
03/13/2014Posted by on
I was lucky in a lot of ways as a child: I had two parents who loved, nurtured and instilled a love of learning in me; we lived in an affluent neighborhood with a good school; I had certain gifts from nature and nurture that we call above-average intelligence; and finally I had access to books through ownership and the well funded local library. As a result, I was reading five or six grades above my level. I knew this because on the back of every book a schoolchild was going to get their hands on they printed the suggested reading level. Between school, personality, and my parents I had gotten clear signals that being smart was good, and being smart had something to do with your age and your grade levels, so I was quietly pleased with being an advanced reader.1 On top of that, throughout elementary school I was the fastest reader in my class. At some point, second grade I think, the class was split, or tracked, into two reading groups. One track was for the advanced readers, and the other track was for the normal readers. 2 So you can imagine my personal disappointment and filial shame when I was tracked into the normal reader group.3 Read more of this post
03/07/2014Posted by on
Leah Libresco and Pascal Emmaneul Gobry have been wrestling with exactly how awesome marriage is.
The orthodox Christian view of indissoluble marriage in many ways can seem “exalted” in comparison to secular society. And secular society certainly makes lots of noises about valorizing marriage. Thus, “You agree marriage is awesome, we agree marriage is awesome. Ain’t marriage awesome???”
But the problem is that this is an inversion of the Biblical theology of marriage. […] If marriage is a vale of milk and honey, then when the milk and honey runs out, the marriage loses its reason for being. If marriage is a vale of milk and honey, then not offering it to everyone is tantamount to sadism. Marriage is [really] a Cross. Marriage is a vocation to creation in total self-giving. To say that marriage is a Cross is to say that it is part of God’s design and that many graces flow from it and even that it is joyous. But it is also to say that it sucks sometimes and that it demands a total gift of self. If we see vocation as a call to creative self-giving, we see that marriage and celibacy are two sides of the same coin.
Treating marriage as a relationship set apart prevents us from easily translating the same lessons we learn in love of friend or family into the partnership we’ve learned to treat as sui generis.  It would be bizarre to say, “I’m not ready for friendship — I’m not prepared to make that kind of commitment to someone” but it seems perfectly natural to prorogue marriage[. W]e still view marriage as self-gift, but that we expect the self that we give to be well-polished and complete[.] We don’t see a way that any gift worthy of the name could also be a constraint or a burden.
These are all excellent points, though they both neglected some vital context. Marriage really is harder these days, in some ways good (domestic violence is a no-no) and in other ways bad (you must be perfect partners in every sphere of your life). Simultaneous with ever-increasing standards of what a “good” marriage should be, the traditional support structures within the churches, communities, and social networks of married couples have weakened terribly.
Gobry clarified in the comments section:
And to the point about support networks–absolutely, and this is critical. To say that our cultural “script” about marriage is flawed is not to say that there aren’t understandable reasons for that and that we can’t sympathize with those who are victims of it. Our society makes it a lot harder to sustain marriages–and the Church has a role to play in that, Laws are one thing, but it’s also incumbent upon the Church to sustain and create the cultural institutions that make a healthy marriage culture possible.
I’ve been thinking about this response, and I think that while it is obviously correct it is also a terribly incomplete solution. But for getting involved with my wife, who is also my fiancée,1 I would never have noticed how badly incomplete that solution is. More, infra